BMW has confirmed that it will enter the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2024 with its new LMDh car, which turned its first laps in a private shakedown at Varano on Monday.
The German manufacturer will expand to a two-series operation for its second year in the LMDh formula after focusing on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for its debut next year.
A WEC program that would simultaneously enable BMW to make a bid for overall honors at 24 Hours of Le Mans had been under evaluation for several months.
The entry will coincide with the 25th anniversary of BMW’s last prototype effort at Le Mans in 1999, when it won the French endurance classic with a V12 LMR driven by Yannick Dalmas, Joachim Winkelhock and Pierluigi Martini.
It will also herald the Munich-based manufacturer’s first WEC program since its GTE-Pro venture with the BMW M8 GTE that lasted only for the 2018-19 season.
“The decision to run the BMW M Hybrid V8 in the IMSA series from 2023, and the WEC from 2024, is a milestone for the project,” said BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel.
“I sampled and marveled at the extraordinary flair of the 24 Hours of Le Mans during my first term as CEO of BMW M so I am very excited to be challenging for overall victory as BMW M Motorsport again at this classic and in the whole World Endurance Championship for the first time for decades.
“The BMW M Hybrid V8 represents a turning point towards electrification for BMW M.
“The IMSA series in North America and the WEC, which takes place all over the world, are the perfect platforms, on which to use our prototype to show how exciting electrified BMW M cars will be in the future.”
BMW conducted the first rollout of its Dallara-based LMDh car at the Italian constructor’s Varano facility with factory drivers Connor De Phillippi and Sheldon van der Linde taking turns behind the wheel.
More European tests are scheduled for August before BMW begins running at U.S. venues in September ahead of its two-car factory GTP effort with Team RLL next year.
BMW has stated that “numerous” factory drivers will be involved in the track testing phase, with decisions on the 2023 driver lineup to be determined at a later date.
“Due to the very tight schedule for the LMDh project, the plan has always been to focus on one field of application in the first season in 2023,” explained Andreas Roos, head of BMW M Motorsport.
“The IMSA series is perfectly suited for this. However, our mid-term goal was obviously to race on two fronts with the BMW M Hybrid V8, and also to use the major platform provided by the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We are now working determinedly towards this, at the same time as our program in North America.
“We took the next important step on Monday. The car successfully completed its roll-out at Dallara in Varano de Melegari. We now start the intensive test work before the race debut in January 2023 at Daytona.”
BMW will remain at Varano this week to gain more mileage and conduct systems checks on its LMDh car.
De Phillippi, who currently drives for BMW Team RLL in IMSA’s GTD Pro class, said it was an “honor” to complete the car’s first laps.
“This was a historic day for BMW M Motorsport within the LMDh project,” said the American.
“Step by step we went through all functions of the car and by the end of the day we were able to do some laps with nearly full power, which is a good result for a rollout.
“A huge thank you to everybody working so hard for this project at BMW M Motorsport, BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Team RMG and Dallara!”